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Cross Country 1999

Great American XC Festival Newsletter 7/22/99

Rick Hill's Newsletter July 22: 

How were teams selected for the Race of Champions?

Invitational - Past Runners - Coaches Corner - 5 Twins - Internet connection - T-Shirts
Medals - Middle School Race Has US Record Holder - Course Construction Underway -
Dining & Dancing - Katella boys hot on summer circuit - Christian Brothers: Deepest team in nation? -
Sanctions - Colerain girls: Fast and Smart - How to run McAlpine

by Rick Hill

We hope this second newsletter for The Great American Cross-Country Festival finds each of you in good health. By now I am sure all of our runners are deep into their summer training and with the end of track season - cross-country is uppermost in your minds.

This month we will feature some of the runners and top teams in our Invitational Race. We have a very deep field and many potential All-Americans in this race. One question that has often been asked: is, "How were teams selected for the Race of Champions?". So, here is the answer.

When we first started planning, we wanted to bring together the 1998 state champions of the southeast with 3 or 4 national powers. Frankly we decided to recruit rather than select. However, things never go the way you expect.

Within the first month, Colerain, Bingham and Saratoga expressed interest in coming, but did not commit to coming to Charlotte. Likewise, we did receive prompt commitments from state champions from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina, expecting to run against top competition. But with many of the nation's best teams waiting to see how our meet would materialize, we continued our search for commitments from national class teams to guarantee great competition for our southern teams. Consequently, we kept reaching out to other national powers and were successful with Poly, Katella, Southeast and Christian Brothers.

Finally, Bingham, Colerain and Saratoga came on board and the floodgates opened, and historical national powers like Gallup, Campbell County, The Woodlands, Kingwood and Shenendehowa followed.

One real quirk in the selection process was our difficulty in reaching Virginia teams. Of all states, Virginia teams were very difficult to research, locate and contact. But, in the end, we were able to recruit most of the state's top programs.

Additionally, we had several other big programs but lost a number of quality teams for valid reasons. As examples, Rockford, Colonie Central, Flathead, and Portage were potential entries but quickly faded from the picture. As a result, we never had one list of 40 to 50 fully committed, sanctioned and funded teams. If we had the opportunity to select our Race of Champion teams in one session, the field would be different. As a result, we now have many very exciting runners and teams in our Invitational.


The Girls Invitational Race will see a strong match among a number of top teams. Look for Jefferson Forest and West Springfield, VA, Dobyns-Bennet, Kingsport, TN, TC Roberson and Enka, NC.

An early favorite is Dobyns-Bennet with three outstanding runners returning from their third place finish in the Tennessee AAA State Meet last fall. They will be lead by Jennifer Darnell, third place finisher in the 98 state meet as a 10th grader with an 18:08. Anna Ripley who ran 18:47 for 10th in the state and Jamie Randall who also finished a strong 14th with an 18:58 will follow her.

However, a strong and upcoming Jefferson Forest is a very dynamic and young team with six runners returning from their Class AA runner-up team from 1998. While they will miss StateChamp Kimberly Myers, three sub 20:00 runners will be hard to handle. Watch this team closely over the next two years, there top 4 runners were only 9th graders last year and the next two were 10th graders.

North Carolina's top contender will be TC Roberson, the '97 and '98 AAA Champ. They will be lead by Jennifer Kelley who finished 4th in the state meet as a 9th grader. She will be joined by Danielle Dienes, the 1998 Independent Schools State Cross-Country Champ. Also, Maggie Marriott who finished 10th in the 1998 VA state meet in 18:11 will lead a good West Springfield team.

Another sleeper is Enka, North Carolina's 1998 AAA state runner-up. The team returns all of their top 5 and will be lead by Hillary McKay, North Carolina's AAA runner-up as a 9th grader with a 19:24.

Top individuals will feature Sara Graybill of Davies County, KY (4th in Footlocker Southeast with a 18:04), Keri Lanyi, Richmond Thomas Jefferson (5th returnee from Footlocker Southeast with a 18:27), Brittany Menson from Alexander HS, GA. (5:07 mile and 18:54 5K), Meghan Hoffman, West Potomac (12th fastest returnee from Footlocker Southeast); Dee Ayscue, Mauldin (18:56 and 2nd place in SC's State meet); Stephanie Lujan, Science Hill (18:50 as a 9th grader).

A potential big surprise in the girls Invitational could include Casey McGraw (Minnesota State Champ; 17:55 PR) who has just relocated to North Carolina's Freedom High School. Others to watch include Missy Dock, Providence, NC. (5:21); of TC Roberson; and Sarah Damen, Oak Ridge (19:07).

The Boys Invitational appears to be wide open. This month we have highlighted several of the favorites including Western Albemarle, VA; Alexander, GA; Midlothian, VA. North Mecklenburg, NC and Science Hill, TN.

Western Albemarle, coached by Lindy Bain, has a very strong front combination with three runners who ran between 16:02 and 16:05 and their fourth runner at 16:22 in 1998. They have excellent experience at McAlpine with two top finishers in last year's Footlocker's Southeast region's grade divisions. The team will be lead by Jeremy Cadle, a 4:22.9 miler and runner up in Virginia's AA State mile run. He has clocked a 16:05 5K at McAlpine. He will be accompanied by rising star Philip DeJong, who finished 5th in the 98 Footlocker Southeast's sophomore race and not far behind the Jeffersons. Closing out this tight front pack is Todd Lucia, 2nd place finisher, in the junior race at 98 Footlocker Southeast. Charlie Hurt and Owen Morrison will likely make up the top 5. Both are Juniors with rapidly rising credentials. With the potential to achieve a solid national ranking and a Virginia state title, look for these two to make big improvements in '99.

Midlothian, coached by Stan Morgan, is another top team from Virginia. They will be lead by Austin Smith, the 7th fastest returnee from the 98 Footlocker Southeast and a race favorite. Smith clocked a 15:54 at McAlpine and ran a 4:25 mile and 9:36 3200 this past spring. Sophomores, Mike and Anthony D'Amato will join him, who ran a 10:10 2 mile and 4:30 mile respectively in the spring. (Just how many twins do we have in this meet?) Another major competitor will be Zach Davis, who was injured last fall, but ran a quick 1:57 800 this past spring.

Another top team will be Charlotte's North Mecklenburg. The team returns it's top 5 from a 5th place finish in the North Carolina State AAAA division, plus add transferee Jeff Gossolin, who ran a 4:29.1 mile as a 9th grader. They will be lead by 4:17 miler Stephen Haas.

Science Hill will be lead by Shane Byrne, 6th place finisher at the 1998 Tennessee State AAA with a 15:48 and Robert Hatcher with a 16:01. Top individual runners in the boys race include: Derrick Wyatt of Liberty High School, the third fastest returnee from 98 Southeast Footlocker with a 15:36 and a 12th place finish. Two runners finishing just ahead of Wyatt were Chris Emme and Alan Webb. Wyatt raced a good 4:16.7 mile in June. He is a very tough runner and only lacks more high level competition. He won his state cross-country race by 1:52. That is one minute and 52 seconds! Where was a larger winning gap in the US?

Other favorites include 11th grader Kevin Cosby North Carolina's AAA state XC champ with a 15:54; Edmund Kelly, of Pinecrest, the second fastest returning runner in North Carolina, with a 15:53; Kyle Rabbit (4:17) and Nathan Kosiba (9:32), both of Landmark Christian, GA, Mark Rowe, Davies County, KY (16:19); and Nic Cowan, Alexander, GA (16:05).


Mike Love (92) and Mike Moreno (93) Katella's All-Americans...Mark Smith (91), Western Albemarle, 1990 Footlocker finalist... Sarah Vance Goodman (97) T.C. Roberson, 1996-1997 Footlocker Finalist and NCAA Cross Country All-American at Villanova...John Oliver, IC4A Steeple Chase Champ; Amy Akstin, 98 Penn Relays 10,000 meter Champ; Amleson Teklai 1997 and Gabrielle Pohlmann 1986-1987 Footlocker Finalists - all from West Potomac...Erin Keogh (87), two time Footlocker Champ and McAlpine record holder, and Judy Stott (91), two time Footlocker Finalist, both of Langley...Amy Marx (89), Footlocker National Finalist from Lincoln Southeast. Brad and Brent Hauser (93-94), NCAA All-Americans, Kingwood.


Steve and Francine Carpenter are the new coaches of TC Roberson in Asheville, NC. Francine ('86) won 5 state titles at Roberson and was an All-American (16:20) at NC State. She is still an active runner in North Carolina......Mike Cochrane, head coach at Katella was a small college All American in football as a defensive back (we're glad you found the real sport of champions.)......Don Ocana, native of Mexico City and coach of Katella has won numerous national championships and coached Brazilian and Mexican Olympians including several World Class Athletes...... Ron Russo, coach of Colerain was an Ohio All-State cross-country runner (78) and ran for Indiana from 1981-1983...... Dr. Ted Larson, head coach at Lincoln Southeast was the National Girls Cross-Country Coach of the Year in 1995...... The rest of Southeast's coaching staff is also very impressive. Susie Larson was All-Big in the 1988 10,000 meters; John McCracken was a 1988 Olympic Marathon Trials Qualifier and has a PR of 2:18.15; and David Nebel was a two time All-American in Track and Field (91, 92) while at Nebraska Wesleyan...


There is little difference between the top runners in the Invitational and those in the Race of Champions. The only difference is the depth of these teams. One way to achieve the depth is a two-for-one package deal. We have five sets of twins participating in Great American: The Lows, Welkers, Jeffersons, Zeigles, and D'Amatos. Four sets are in The Race of Champions. Sounds like double trouble for the rest of the teams.


Thanks to Dyestat, national interest is growing in all races. Our web site, in its first days of operation, was getting over 200 visits a day. We passed the 1000 mark in the first six days.

Take a few minutes to discover Dyestat, the best internet site for high school track and field. The web site is

John Dye is doing an outstanding job in covering Great American. Show your appreciation by visiting his site. Runners, there is a lot of trash talk about you, your team, and teams not fortunate enough to be in the Great American. Defend your honor and speak up. Dyestat Track Talk gives you a voice. Dyestat will be your primary source of information concerning the meet. You'll find a listing of all teams by race, race schedule, team profiles, course map, monthly newsletters and much more as we approach September 25.


John Dye and Doug Speck, the number one national authorities on high school running, will team up in Charlotte to provide pre-race coverage, live race day coverage and post race wrap-up.


We have returned to the studio for new T-shirt designs. Our panel of grunge runners thought our first design looked like something from the 80s. So we recruited nationally known designer, Joe Allarie, to give us a new look. Joe promises a fresh, cutting-edge look within a few weeks. We hope to provide a good scan on Dyestat for everyone.


The Great American Cross-Country Festival has selected the Roger Willams Mint of Attleboro, MA, to custom design medals for the Race of Champions, Invitational, Open and Adult Races. We were sold when we learned they minted the gold, silver and bronze hardware for the Los Angeles Olympics. And no, our T-shirt grunge panel will not have input on the medals. You can look O.K. in the T-shirt but your mother would never forgive us if we sent you home with hockey puck medals.


Entries from Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Virginia have been received for our Middle School and Elementary School Races. Heading the list of entries is Ryan Deak of Tallahassee, Florida. Ryan, who will be an 8th grader at Maclay School in Tallahassee, set a new age group national record in a time of 16:27 for a road 5K this spring. As a 7th grader, he ran a 9:54 2-mile on the track. The record has been certified by the Road Runners Club of America.

James Hawthorne, from McLean, Virginia, another up and coming runner, has entered the JV Race. Last fall, as an 8th grader, he finished second in the Southeast Footlocker Middle School Race, with a time of 16:43 at McAlpine.

High school runners, get your coach, parents and siblings in these races. Entry forms for youth and adult races can be found on Dyestat and the back of this newsletter.


We have begun construction on our course design elements. Hawse Design, who designed environmental graphics for Hard Rock Cafe, Paramount Theme Parks and the NBA, has designed an exciting mix of first class-elements, including mile markers, start and finish line graphics, crowd control barricades and an official results board. Choate Construction, of Charlotte has signed on as a major sponsor and will handle construction management and installation of this important phase of Great American.


We are about 4 weeks away from having details concerning evening activities. Activities, options and costs will be profiled in our August newsletter.


Daniel Mejia and Juan Casas appear to be in good form with 15:38 and 15:44 5K road runs in early June. Ramiro Guerrero and Albert Rosel ran good times of 16:24 and 16:47. Ramiro has a PR of 15:48. Where was Tony Lozano, a 15:41 5K runner? Word on the street: he is training on McAlpine this summer (Just kidding). Bet he will be here by September 23. Katella was ranked sixth in the nation last year but may have been overlooked. They are a favorite to win the Race of Champions.


The mark of a good team is that it can put 4 milers under 4:30 in spring track. Christian Brothers, on May 17 ran a 4 x 1 mile in 17:48.7 and average of 4:27.2. However, more importantly, their so-called "B" team ran 17:52.5 in the same race, a 4:28.1 average. 7 of the 8 return this fall and there is not a slow one in the bunch. They ran between 4:24 and 4:28. Where is another team that is that strong in the 6th and 7th positions?


Julie Curly of the North Carolina High School Athletic Federation has informed us that all states with participating schools have sanctioned Great American. However, some states require specific conditions to be met. Coaches, please check with your state office now to confirm your team's sanction. Please ask your state to forward the paper work to the National Office.


Reading the stats of Colerain's girls is impressive, an average of 18:41 for 5K PRs; Kell Crum (5:01), Catie Grebe (5:05), and Alison Zeinner (10:49). But their academic stats may be better. Zeinner has a 3.98 GPA and Jennifer Limle has a 3.89 GPA. However, Alison Bedingfield and Shelle Dickinson have a 4.0 GPA and are number one in their respective classes.


McAlpine Greenway is a crushed stone, flat running surface with one moderate hill at the halfway point. However, this course is very deceptive and many top runners have failed to perform their best at McAlpine. There are many possible answers, but here is one possible explanation.

In recent years, in often the first 400 meters for the boys have been covered in 58 to 60 seconds. Nevertheless, the pace has been slowed to a pedestrian pace with the mile split around 4:55. That means the distance from 400 to 1600 is run at close to a 5:20 mile pace. Things usually pick up quickly on the backside of the hill and around the lake in hitting the 2 mile around 9:50. But this is the point where many top runners seem to really struggle.

The front pack of 4-6 runners seem to be determined with 800 meters to go and final places are fairly well determined with 600 to go. Seldom do we see many head to head battles down the final 200 meter stretch.

So what is going on? Here's one opinion, which is very open for debate. The quick kids get out fast in the first 200 meters (as fast as 27 seconds) and are relatively relaxed, even with a 58 second 400. They then throw it in reverse and walk through the mile; relax on the hill; race around the lake and then use their speed to surge over 200 meters with 1000 to 600 meters to go. Conversely, when the strength runners guys go out in 58 (sometimes within 4 or 5 seconds of a 400 PR) they are in trouble at the 800, just hanging on at the mile and dead on arrival at the top of the hill. Then they cannot match the downhill acceleration of the fast kids and the subsequent quick pace around the lake. Generally, they are fading rapidly by 2 miles and cannot understand their loss of energy. Likewise, many strength runners that set back at first, just cannot get into the race and have a hard, if not impossible time working themselves up through the pack on McAlpine's narrow course.

If you're a speedster, get out fast and enjoy the sights as you stroll along the creeks, until it is time to race. When the pace picks up, hang on for dear life. More than one great runner has surged hard, broken away, only to be gunned down by a determined follower. If the strength runners go out with you on a fast pace, you may win with a few well placed surges. If they were smart and work their way to the front, be ready to pick up your pace over an extended distance. Your surges will not work in that scenario.

If you are a strength runner remember that you don't have the hills, the grass, or mud (usually) to slow the front runners. But don't go for a PR in the first 400. Find a way to run an even pace after the first 200 and more importantly, run the outside edges of the trail, working your way to the front. Catch the leaders at 1000 meters when they are snoozing at their leisurely 80 second 400 meter pace after their quick start. If you come cruising by at a 72 second 400 meter pace and take the mile down to the mid to low 4:40s you'll be running your race.

Just be careful, September in Charlotte can be hot and humid. It can Zap the fast and strong.


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